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10 Winter Driving Tips And Why Having An AWD Subaru Doesn’t Guarantee Safety

You purchased an all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester, Crosstrek, Outback, or Ascent for its all-weather performance, but it doesn't guarantee you will arrive safely. Here are ten winter driving tips that could keep you out of the ditch.


Even having an all-wheel-drive vehicle like a Subaru Forester, Crosstrek, Outback, or Ascent doesn't guarantee you will arrive at your designation safely this winter. Even experienced drivers need a refresher on how to drive on ice, snow, and loose surfaces. Here are some winter driving tips that could keep you out of the ditch.

Clean off your windshield before taking off

Most of these winter driving tips are common sense, like thoroughly cleaning your windshield, side windows, and rear windows before taking off. Don't let the defroster do all the work, making it harder to see.

2023 Subaru Forester

Buy a good set of winter tires

It would help if you didn't think all-season tires were enough for severe winter conditions. Ensure you have the best winter-rated tires with adequate tread for the conditions. Some states, like Colorado, have traction laws and passenger vehicle chain laws in effect in the high country.

Turn on your lights

Make a habit of turning on your lights during the day and ensuring they are clean of snow, ice, and road dirt. You want other drivers to see you coming.

2023 Subaru Crosstrek

Adjust your speed and spacing

Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the car ahead. Don't make quick or sudden maneuvers in snowy and icy conditions, including abrupt acceleration, braking, or steering. The typical dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds when traveling on snow or ice.

Don't use your cruise control

Never use cruise control on icy or snowy roads to avoid hydroplaning. Using cruise control could cause you to lose control because tapping on the brakes to shut off the system could cause the car to lose traction and skid out of control.

Use your brakes safely

Use firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal and don't let up or pump your brakes. Your Subaru vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, which will make the adjustments in braking automatically.

Scan the road

Look 12 to 15 seconds ahead in the city or just over one city block. You can spot hazards ahead of time and make a lane change to get out of harm's way.

Look for black ice

If the road looks shiny and black instead of grey, slow down. If you hit an icy spot or black ice and start to slide, do the opposite of what you would think. Turn into the slide, and keep your foot off the gas and brakes. The car will slowly correct itself, and you can then get back on your track or steer to a spot on the road where there's more traction.

Know where ice builds up

Look for ice build-up on intersections, bridge decks, ramps, and overpasses. This is especially true if you travel on the highway and then pass over a bridge. The cold air surrounds the surface of a bridge from above and below, and bridges lose heat from both sides. Bridges cannot trap heat so they will ice rapidly as soon as the temperature decreases to freezing. Roads, on the other hand, only lose heat from their surface.

Watch for flashing lights

Steer clear of snowplows, emergency, and police vehicles. Snowplows always use flashing amber and red lights to make them more visible. Snow plows may make sudden lane changes to avoid a car or road barrier. They also use sand and gravel, which could break your windshield if you follow too close.

Even if you own an all-wheel-drive vehicle like a Subaru Forester SUV, Crosstrek subcompact SUV, Outback midsize SUV, Ascent 3-Row SUV, or another all-wheel-drive car, these tips will help keep you safe and could keep you out of the ditch this winter.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Joseph (not verified)    November 11, 2022 - 5:55PM

Good tips, I always run 4 snow tires, this year it’s Nokians, make sure you carry a bag with a small stove, pan, matches, dinnerware, emergency food, extra gloves, hat, space blanket, flashlight, water, reflective triangles, cell phone charger (solar), always be prepared.